we all Work

Kutaisi
Rioni River from the White Bridge in Kutaisi, Georgia. My office is a few blocks offscreen to the left.

The Peace Corps Mission: To promote world peace and friendship.

That mission statement is the simplest and one of the more meaningful statements I’ve ever come across. It hasn’t been modified in 55 years…no need to! It says it all, to us peacemongers.

As I discovered during my service in Ghana, questions from friends and family quickly move beyond “what do you eat?” and “what’s the weather like?” into “just what DO you do there?” For my friends who follow me on Facebook, you may already have a fair idea. But this is for the rest of you!

ph_weallwork

First Goal

To help the people of interested countries in meeting their need for trained men and women.

Volunteers are brought to a country at the invitation of the country. Our goal is to integrate and support, not take over. The Imereti Union of Scientists “Spectri” works on environmental issues through education, advocacy, outreach and practical projects to implement new community projects. My kind of organization!!

SpectriWomen
The women of Spectri!

Left to right: Tamriko Moseshvili (Tamar), Anjelika Ionanidze, Ketevan Tskhakaia (Keti), Elena Gamkrelidze (Lali), and Venera Mkhitaryan

OK, I have to say that the office of women I work with is already a talented group. Sometimes I wonder if they really need me. They’ve got the connections and the talent. They’ve got the environmental knowledge and commitment. But exactly because it’s a small group, the workload can quickly be overwhelming. This is where I hope I can help the most: not by doing the work (I’m not proficient in the language), but by doing the needed research and networking, and sometimes by coming up with a different slant on an old idea. Say hello to Spectri! And Like them on Facebook.

Sustainable Goals and waste management
The importance of waste management and recycling, in 17 easy steps! With thanks to WasteAid UK.

Yes, waste management is critical. The United Nations has identified the above 17 Global Goals, and WasteAid UK (an organization I’m in contact with as part of my research) has put together this very fine relationship chart of how waste affects every single one of those 17 goals. We in America take recycling for granted. Most volunteers who come to Georgia feel uneasy about the lack of recycling opportunities here. I find myself saving my old batteries to bring back to the US because I don’t want another speck of mercury to enter the waste stream! Spectri waste bin

Spectri is best known for their recent signature project of installing plastic recycling bins in Kutaisi and Tkibuli (a nearby coal-mining town), and has two more grants to expand recycling in 5 communities. These are the first municipality-managed recycling projects in all of Georgia, as best I can tell (please…someone prove me wrong!). Though there are many private efforts, the concept of municipal management is missing. Here is a storyboard I made of the situation in Kutaisi.

My latest plan is to change that dynamic. While municipalities should be able to collect the recycling, I hope to help identify ways to setup a public/private partnership, possibly using a cooperative model, to move the recycled materials into the new product, income/job-generating arena. Spectri already has great connections with NGOs and municipalities all over western Georgia in particular, and some parts of eastern Georgia. They don’t have business or cooperative experience, so that’s where I hope to help the most. Stay tuned on this blog for evolving details!

Tkibuli1.jpg
Encouraging the next generation in Tkibuli! Translation: 22 April, Earth Day

Celebrations should always be part of any hard work, and celebrating Earth Day on 22 April this year was part of my work. We had a huge array of Earth Day activities, culminating in this lovely event with kids from that coal-mining town that I mentioned.

This is the next generation, the one that will really understand and commit to recycling and energy efficiency…and understand the climate change reasons why! Spectri is particularly good at education, and it’s great to watch them in action.

Speaking of educating the youth of today, here’s another great environmental activity I recently helped with: a GREEN Camp for youth between the ages of 12-17. This will bring you to the photo video of the cleanup event on the 3rd day of the camp. The kids were all jazzed by it, and several are posting additional cleanup activities they are engaged in now. Of course, part of the requirement for getting their camp certificate is to go out and do 4 energy or waste actions in the community. But it’s amazing how cleaning up a nasty site can really open one’s eyes to all the waste that is around just on the streets and sidewalks.

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Second Goal

To help promote a better understanding of Americans on the part of the peoples served.

When I tell most Georgians that I’m from America, their first idea is that I must be from New York or California. There’s not much more to the country than that, right?

Wrong! It helps when I explain that Wisconsin is between Chicago and Canada, and they will nod knowingly…”Chicago!” But 90210,  crime shows, and news of guns and street violence are not an American.

EducationUSA KateSchachter.jpg

At a recent Education USA Fair in Batumi, about a dozen Volunteers spent an afternoon representing their alma maters. I would not have been able to do this in Ghana (no college degree!), but I was happy to do that for Edgewood College with my new (at the age of 60) BS in International Relations!

VolunteerFair me
Anyone noticing the proliferation of ‘we all’ multicultural posters in my photos?

At the Volunteer Fair here in Kutaisi last month, I not only staffed the Spectri table to promote environmental awareness, but made sure that the RPCVs of Madison ‘we all’ posters were cunningly hung about the room! I continue to support my group back home, easily done through the world culture calendars, notecards and posters available we produce for sale in support of PC and other multicultural activities.

Raising awareness about other countries in the world is as important as raising awareness about Americans.

Third Goal

To help promote a better understanding of other peoples on the part of Americans.

I love the Peace Corps World Wise Schools program. Connecting with grade schools in the US and answering questions from kids about life in another country is great fun. The day before I left Madison I went to the classroom for about 45 minutes and talked about Georgia. This gave the kids a chance to know the real person they were communicating with. I did the same thing during my Ghana service, but this time was better since it was with my granddaughter’s 5th grade class in Madison. What a wonderful way to stay connected to her!

43-DmanisiStoneChurch
Church in Dmanisi, ca. 300 AD
BRC2014_SilasMorreeuw_Great-rosefinch
Great Rose Finch

So, my friends, know that Georgia is an incredible place. Hiking, camping and birding opportunities abound. Religion is huge here, and you can visit monasteries and churches with thousands of years of history. People are welcoming. The food, wine and beer are excellent. Yes, Turkey is on our southwest border, and Russia on our northern border. It creates an interesting political environment. But it feels safer to me than back home. It is a good place to work.

Rioni River Hat photo.jpg
At the White Bridge over the Rioni River, and the famous bronze statue.

მშვიდობით ახლა! (Peace Now!)

Learning from…

blog-challenge-2016

7 thoughts on “we all Work

  1. Wonderful, Kate! I love the way you are using the poster titles as the theme for your posts. You are doing such a fine job where you are, and at the same time educating us at home!

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  2. Thanks so much, Kate. So glad to see what you’re doing and the people you’re working with. It looks beautiful.

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  3. Kate, What a great post! I enjoyed it so much. Life in Madison is lively and hot. Last week we had heat indexes of 100+ , lots of humidity but the tomatoes are loving it too bad for us humans. I have a few questions about your Peace Corps Response service because I am in the midst of applying for a position.https://sjobs.brassring.com/TGWEbHost/jobdetails.aspx?AReq=4341BR&partnerid=25332&siteid=5174&utm_campaign=&utm_medium=email&utm_source= I have had an interview, given references, and completed all of my pre-invitation medical screening tasks (what a process since at 67 I have a much larger pile of medical issues that at 53 when I served before). Was your housing already arranged when you arrived in-country?Did you have any communication with your counterparts before you left for service?Do you have much interaction with the regular two year PCVs and PC Georgia headquarters? Thank you, Harry Date: Sun, 17 Jul 2016 12:49:46 +0000 To: hmbennett@hotmail.com

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    1. We have been living the mantra of Reduce Reuse Recycle so long in the US, that it is second nature to us! This work could take another generation to “stick.” It’s a long and slow, but worthwhile, process.

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